Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Not Now?

“David, after he had served his own generation…fell asleep” (Acts 13:36).

I have a dear friend who served as a missionary in Surinam for may years, but in his final years was stricken with a tragic illness that paralyzed him. At times he wondered why God allowed him to linger on earth. He longed to depart and to be with his Lord.

Perhaps life is very hard for you as well—its pressures seem unbearable—and you wonder why God has allowed you to linger. When Jesus said he was going away to heaven, Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” (John 13:37). You, like Peter, may wonder why your entry into heaven has been postponed: “Why not now?”

God has a wise and loving purpose in leaving us behind. There is work to be done in us that can only be accomplished here on earth: our afflictions, which are for the moment, are working for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”(2 Corinthians 4:17). And there is work to be done for others—perhaps only to love and to pray. And so we cannot go home until God’s intentions are perfected. We are, as Augustine said, immortal until our work is done.

Furthermore, our lingering may be an opportunity for others to learn to love. I read somewhere that the Amish believe that the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the aged, and incapacitated are given as gifts to the community because their presence enlarges us by teaching us compassion and charity.

So, though you may desire release, to live on in the flesh will mean fruitfulness (Philippians 1:21). And there is comfort in waiting: Though heaven may be delayed, it is assured. Have no doubt about it for Jesus said it, “You cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterward” (John 13: 36).


Monday, November 23, 2009

Came across this blog recently:

You by now will have read about the plane crash in Montana which took the lives of 14 people. What you may not have read is that among the victims were members of Bud Feldkamp’s family, including two of his daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandchildren. Feldkamp, it turns out, is the owner of the nation’s largest privately owned, for-profit abortion chain. His clinics perform more abortions in California even than Planned Parenthood. The plane, in another tragically ironic twist, crashed in a Roman Catholic cemetery which contains a memorial to victims of abortion, the ‘Tomb of the Unborn.’ Pro-lifers had prayed for years in front of his mansion, pleading with him and praying for him to repent and warning him for his children’s sake that, “If you do not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.

I thought of a situation Luke mentions in which some people came to Jesus with the report of certain Galileans “whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). Apparently Pilate’s troops had surrounded and slaughtered a group of Jews as they were worshipping in the temple. We don’t know anything about the massacre, but it’s in keeping with what we know of Pilate’s character.

Jesus’ answer was wholly unexpected: “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:2-5).

Jesus’ answer laid bare the hearts of those who reported this event. Apparently, their take on this slaughter was that these “Galileans” were terrible sinners and deserved the punishment they received. Pilate’s cruelty was God’s wrath visited on unrighteousness. “No,” Jesus replied, “Unless you repent you too will perish in your sin.”

All of which reminds me of a severe, law-ridden man who sat across from me at lunch one day and growled, “September 11 is the wrath of God against gays!” I was stunned into silence. I should have said, “Unless you and I repent, we too will perish in our sin.”

Lewis has a magnificent line in Till We Have Faces: “Are not the gods[1] just (‘merely just’ he means)?” “Oh, no. my child. Where would we be if they were?”

Is God just? Of course he is, but he is not merely just. If he were, where could any of us stand? He is also patient, forbearing, limitlessly and unconditionally merciful to us, “not willing that any should perish, but that all (even the worst of us) may come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).


[1] Lewis was a monotheist, but placed this story in the context of an ancient, pagan, pluralistic society.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reaching Up

I see little children reaching up with their hands to their mothers, eager to get their attention. It reminds me of my own poor efforts to reach up to God in prayer. My infirmity lies in knowing the exact thing for which I ought to pray.

I’m comforted by Paul’s words: “The Spirit helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

The Apostle’s verb, “helps,” means, “to join in an activity or effort.” God’s Spirit is joined to ours when we pray. He prays along with us “with inexpressible groans;” he sighs often as he prays. He cares for the things we care about; his heart is burdened by our concerns.

More important for me, he prays, “according to God’s will” (Romans 8:27). He knows all the right words to say.

Therefore, I needn’t worry too much about getting my requests exactly right. I only need to reach up, longing for God’s will to be done, knowing that His Spirit will turn my infirmity into prayer. That old Scot, George MacDonald, put it well,

What though my words glance sideways from the thing
Which I would utter in Thine ear, my sire!
Truth in the inward parts Thou dost desire—
Wise hunger, not a fitness fine of speech:
The little child that clamouring fails to reach
With upstretched hand the fringe of her attire,
Yet meets the mother's hand down hurrying.

—George MacDonald


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